Former Team USA goalie Mike Richter says climate change is threatening future Winter Games

PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 31: Mike Richter of the New York Rangers looks on from the bench during the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic Alumni Game against the Philadelphia Flyers on December 31, 2011 at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Mike Richter was one of the best American goaltenders ever to set foot on the ice. Though it has been over a decade since he last suited up for the New York Rangers, Richter was also a veteran of Olympic play, suiting up for the United States in 1988, 1998 and the silver medal-winning 2002 team.

Richter wrote a piece relating to the Olympics for the Guardian, but it’s probably not what you expected. Instead of commenting on the hockey tournament or what it’s like to participate in the Olympic Games, Richter is concerned about another issue: climate change.

Richter is worried about the threat that climate change poses for future winter Games.

“The short-term sacrifices we'll make in order to meet this challenge pale in comparison to both the payback and the cost of ignoring the threat. A recent study estimated that the cost of climate change to the US alone will be $271bn per year by 2025, and more than $1.8tn per year by the end of the century. The threats to national security and human health are even more profound. No aspect of society is untouched, including sports.

"The roots of my sport are in the frozen ponds, lakes and rivers of North America. Though I grew up in Philadelphia, I skated outdoors as much as possible. But things have changed since I began skating; today, these same ponds, lakes and rivers are freezing later and melting earlier. Ice that lasts throughout the winter is, for the most part, a thing of the past. A recent McGill University study suggested that climate change may cause natural ice to disappear altogether, even across Canada, where some rinks now use expensive, artificial ice.”

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Richter asks whether there will be enough snow in the future to last for the duration of any Olympics. Citing a recent New York Times piece, Richter points out that, at best, “10 out of the past 19 host locations are climatically viable to hold future Olympics.”

It’s not an issue that is presented often as it pertains to the Olympics, and Richter also points out that its effects could go beyond sports like ice hockey and skiing. Climate change may also affect the major American sports leagues.

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After presenting these concerns, Richter goes on to point out that President Obama will soon decide whether or not to approve the final section of the Keystone XL pipeline — an oil system that runs from Alberta, Canada, all the way to Texas. Richter says the pipeline will “pump the world’s dirtiest fuel” from Canada to Houston before it's shipped overseas and that each barrel “generates three times more global warming pollution than conventional oil.”

Obama has said that he will reject Keystone XL if it does not pass certain “climate tests.” If Obama does indeed go on to reject the proposal, Richter says, Obama “must tell the world we are serious about fighting climate change.” If he does, Richter writes, “we just might be able to save the Winter Games.”

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